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2011: The Year of Natural Disasters

posted on December 9, 2011

2011: The Year of Natural Disasters

Mother Nature smashed the record for U.S. weather disasters this year, as losses in a dozen calamities exceeded the $1 billion mark. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, reported this week that total losses from the "deadly dozen" alone piled up to a staggering $52 billion, matching the total for all of the 1980’s, even when adjusted for inflation.

Tornadoes accounted for half of the record-breaking disasters, as a steady stream of lethal twisters roared across dozens of states, claiming the lives of more than 1,000 people and inflicting nearly $28 billion in damages.  

Other natural disasters also devastated large geographical areas this year, particularly in the southern plains where record-breaking drought decimated crops and livestock.   Damages from the arid conditions are estimated at nearly $10 billion -- and that figure does not include more than $1 billion in losses due to wildfires in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. 

Where it wasn't too dry this year, there's a good chance it was too wet.  Flooding caused significant damage along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.  A levee along the Mighty Miss was intentionally broken near Wyatt, Missouri in an attempt to protect the Illinois town of Cairo.  Other levees failed after being weakened by flooding along the Missouri River which, in some cases, lasted for months.  

And when combined with losses due to epic flooding along the Mouse River in Minot, North Dakota, America's swollen waterways racked up more than $6 billion dollars in damages. 

Not to be outdone by tornadoes, droughts or floods, Hurricane Irene slammed the east coast from the Carolinas to as far north as Vermont, killing nearly 50 people and leaving more than $7 billion in damages in her wake. 

Scientists blame the rash of severe weather on an unlucky combination of global climate change and freak chance.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency has been inundated with calls for assistance.  And when it comes to weather issues in 2011, the only thing in short supply is money for disaster-relief. 

Tags: agriculture flooding hurricanes Missouri River Mouse River news tornadoes weather